September 9, 2011
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So I’ll admit it–I wasn’t taking notes during my Lilly Belle trip, but fortunately I emailed our conductor, Vern, and he very nicely pointed out that I got some of my facts wrong.
Vern sets the record straight
From the horse’s mouth:
Although, Walt had always wanted a private car for his railroad, it wasn’t realized until almost 10 years after his death. Then a man named Ken Kohler, the Roundhouse Superintendent, from 1961-1990, suggested that the observation car be revived as a Bicentennial Car. The Grand Canyon, car #106 didn’t see much light in storage, but was a great candidate for change. Eventually an idea was spawned that resulted into the building of this elegant private railcar as it is today. In July 1974, Ken was successful in convincing the powers-that-be into returning the car to the rails as a swank Presidential car as part of the park’s bicentennial celebrations. In 1975, the observation car, known as Grand Canyon, was refurbished and converted. Under the guidance of Retlaw Enterprises (Walt’s personal company, which still owned and operated the railroad at that time) Bill Cottrell and Lillian Bounds Disney, Walt’s widow and the car’s namesake, the canary yellow-and-green “Grand Canyon” received a meticulous, two-year-long makeover into the beautiful, burgundy “Lilly Belle” began. The car [was] to be used by Disneyland for Club 33 guests when visiting the park or hosting important guests.
And as such, the kimono in the car was not a gift to Walt, who was already gone. Man, I just love learning all of these little facts and fun stuff, don’t you? Thanks Vern!